Sarmizegetusa Regia

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For the former Roman Dacia capital, see Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa. For the modern-day commune, see Sarmizegetusa (commune).
Blidaru-entry-icon.png Sarmizegetusa Regia
Sarmisegetusa Regia - ansamblu 1.jpg
Ruins of Dacian temples
Sarmizegetusa Regia is located in Romania
Sarmizegetusa Regia
Location within Romania
Alternative name(s) Sarmisegetusa, Sarmizegethusa,[1] Sarmisegethusa, Sarmisegethuza, Sarmageze,[1] Sarmategte,[1] Sermizegetusa,[1] Zarmizegethusa,[1] Zarmizegethousa,[1] Zarmizegetusa,[1] Zermizegethouse
Known also as Dacian capital
Abandoned 2nd century AD
Events Trajan's Dacian Wars, Battle of Sarmizegetusa
Coordinates 45°37′19″N 23°18′33″E / 45.6219°N 23.3093°E / 45.6219; 23.3093Coordinates: 45°37′19″N 23°18′33″E / 45.6219°N 23.3093°E / 45.6219; 23.3093
Altitude 1,030 m (3,379 ft)
Town Grădiștea de Munte
County Hunedoara County
Country  Romania
RO-LMI HD-I-s-A-03190 [2]
RO-RAN 90397.01 [3]
Site notes
Recognition Welterbe.svg UNESCO World Heritage Site
Monument istoric.svg National Historical Monument
Condition Partially reconstructed

Sarmizegetusa Regia, also Sarmisegetusa, Sarmisegethusa, Sarmisegethuza, Ζαρμιζεγεθούσα (Zarmizegethoúsa) or Ζερμιζεγεθούση (Zermizegethoúsē), was the capital and the most important military, religious and political centre of the Dacians. Erected on top of a 1,200 metre high mountain, the fortress was the core of the strategic defensive system in the Orăştie Mountains (in present-day Romania), comprising six citadels. Sarmizegetusa Regia was the capital of Dacia prior to the wars with the Roman Empire.

It should not be confused with Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa, the Roman capital of Dacia built by Roman Emperor Trajan, which was not the Dacian capital, located some 40 km away. Sarmizegetusa Ulpia was discovered earlier, was known already in the early 1900s, and initially confused with the Dacian capital. This inevitably led to inaccuracies regarding Dacian wars and Dacians military system based solely on insufficient information.[4]


Several hypotheses have been advanced to explain the origin of the name "Sarmizegetusa". The most important are the following:

  • ‘The citadel built of the palisades on mountain peak’ from ZERMI (*gher-mi, mountain peak, top cf. *gher ‘stone’, ‘high’) and ZEGE-T (*geg(h)t)[5]
  • ‘City of warm river’ from ZARMI ‘warm’ (cognate with Sanskrit gharma ‘warm’) and ZEGET ‘flow’ (cognate with Sanskrit sarj, bactrien harez; sarjana, harezâna ‘flow’), the city being named after the nearby river Sargetia[6]
  • ‘The palace that illuminates the world of life’ from "ZARMYA" ‘palace’ (cf. Sanskrit harmya ‘palace’), ZEGETH ‘world of life’ (cf. Sanskrit jagat, jigat ‘go’, ‘mobility / world of life’) and "USA" ‘illuminating’ (‘enlightening’, ‘burning’)[7]


Map of the site

Sarmizegetusa Regia contained a citadel and living areas with dwellings and workshops, but it also contained a sacred zone.

  • The fortress, a quadrilateral formed by massive stone blocks (murus dacicus), was constructed on five terraces, on an area of almost 30,000 m².
  • The sacred zone — among the most important and largest circular and rectangular Dacian sanctuaries – includes a number of rectangular temples, the bases of their supporting columns still visible in regular arrays. Perhaps the most enigmatic construction at the site is the large circular sanctuary. It consisted of a “D” – shaped setting of timber posts, surrounded by a timber circle, which was surrounded by a low stone kerb. The layout of the timber settings bears a broad resemblance to the stone monument at the Stonehenge in England.[8]
  • The “Andesite Sun” from the site seems to have been used as a sundial. This idea is supported by known influences on Dacian culture from Hellenistic Greece, influences which may have included ideas about geometry and astronomy.[8]
  • The civilians lived down from the fortress, in settlements built on artificial terraces, such as the one at Feţele Albe.[9] Dacian nobility had flowing water, brought through ceramic pipes, in their residences.

The archaeological inventory found at the site shows that Dacian society had a high standard of living.


Early attestations[edit]

Zarmizegethusa Regia on Dacia's map from a medieval book made after Ptolemy's Geographia (ca. 140 AD).

The royal Dacian capital Zarmizegethusa is mentioned under a large number of orthographic varieties due to several different pronunciations of the name:[10]

Pre-Roman era[edit]

Towards the end of his reign, Burebista transferred Geto-Dacians capital from Argedava to Sarmizegetusa.[11][12] For at least one and a half century, Sarmizegethusa was the Dacians' capital and reached its acme under King Decebal. Archaeological findings in this area have thrown new light on the political, economic and scientific apogee of Dacian culture, the latter testified by the solar calendar. Burebista and Decebalus creatively assimilated the technological achievements of Greek and Roman culture, out of which Decebalus was in process of making a Dacian classical age when Trajan's legions struck the final blow.[13] And, these show that the Dacians' god Zalmoxis and his chief priest had an important role in Dacian society.[14]

The site yields two important finds:

  • One is a medical kit, contained in a brassbound wooden box with an iron handle. It contained a scalpel, tweezers, powdered pumice and miniature pots for pharmaceuticals.[15]
  • The other important find was a huge vase twenty-four inches (0.6 meter) high and forty-one inches (1 metre) across. It is stamped in mirror-writing, in the Roman alphabet, DECEBAL PER SCORILO i.e. Decebalus, son (cf. Latin puer) of Scorilus.[15]

Also, there had been found 400 iron tools, made with the metre-long tongs, hammers, and anvils found in the smithies north of the sanctuary: scythes, sickles, hoes, rakes, picks, pruning hooks, knives, plowshares, and carpenters' tools.[13] Finds include weapons, too i.e. daggers, curved Dacian scimitars, spearpoints, shield-bosses.[13]

The defensive system[edit]

The Dacians capital’s defensive system includes six Dacian fortresses — Sarmizegetusa, Costești-Blidaru, Piatra Roșie, Costeşti-Cetățuie, Căpâlna and Băniţa. All 6 have been named UNESCO World heritage sites.

Roman era[edit]

Sarmisegetusa's walls were partly dismantled at the end of First Dacian war in AD 102, when Dacia was invaded by the Emperor Trajan of the Roman Empire. The Dacians rebuilt them. The Romans systematically destroyed them again in 106 and deported the inhabitants.[13]

The Roman conquerors established a military garrison at Sarmisegetusa Regia. Later, the capital of Roman Dacia was established 40 km from the ruined Dacian capital, and was named after it - Colonia Ulpia Traiana Augusta Dacica Sarmizegetusa.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Dana, Dan; Nemeti, Sorin (2014-01-09). "Ptolémée et la toponymie de la Dacie (II-V)". Classica et Christiana. p. 18. Retrieved 2014-03-30. 
  2. ^ "National Register of Historic Monuments in Romania, Hunedoara County". Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  3. ^ "National Archaeological Record (RAN)". Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Schmitz (2005) 3
  5. ^ Russu 1944, p. 376-399.
  6. ^ Van Den Gheyn 1885, p. 176.
  7. ^ Tomaschek 1883, p. 410.
  8. ^ a b Ruggles 2005, p. 370.
  9. ^ MacKendrick 1975, p. 60-61.
  10. ^ Ptolemy's maps of northern Europe: a reconstruction of the prototypes, Gudmund Schütte , H. Hagerup, 1917
  11. ^ MacKendrick 1975, p. 48.
  12. ^ Goodman & Sherwood 2002, p. 227.
  13. ^ a b c d MacKendrick 1975, p. 66.
  14. ^ Matyszak 2009, p. 222.
  15. ^ a b MacKendrick 1975, p. 65.


  • Schmitz, Michael (2005). The Dacian threat, 101-106 AD. Armidale, N.S.W. : Caeros Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9758445-0-2. 
  • Tomaschek, Wilhelm (1883). "Les Restes de la langue dace" in "Le Muséon, Volume 2". Belgium: "Société des lettres et des sciences" Louvain, Belgium. 
  • Ruggles, Clive L. N (2005). Ancient astronomy: an encyclopedia of cosmologies and myth. Greenwood: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-85109-477-6. 
  • Paul Lachlan MacKendrick (2000). The Dacian Stones Speak. UNC Press Books. pp. 60–61. ISBN 978-0-8078-4939-2. Lwt5Li_q2asC&pg=PA60. 
  • Van Den Gheyn, Joseph (1885). "Populations Danubiennes" in "Revue des questions scientifiques". Belgium: "Société scientifique de Bruxelles”. 
  • Sherwood, Jane (2002). The Roman World 44 BC–AD 180. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-203-40861-2. 
  • Russu, I.I. (1944). Sarmizegetusa, capitala Geto-Dacilor. .
  • Daicoviciu, Hadrian (1972). "Dacia de la Burebista la cucerirea romană",. Editura Dacia. 
  • Matyszak, Philip (2009). The Enemies of Rome: From Hannibal to Attila the Hun. Thames and Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-28772-9. 

Further reading[edit]

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